Five amazing things about NASA’s ER-2 plane | Top Gear
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Saturday 2nd December
Top Gear series 25

Five amazing things about NASA’s ER-2 plane

Episode four of Top Gear telly sees the Dodge Demon and NASA’s plane come together

  • They’re flying science labs

    NASA operates a pair of Lockheed ER-2 aircraft primarily to collect information about Earth’s natural resources, ‘celestial observations’, atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, and oceanic processes. They’re the eye in the sky for our little blue rock.

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  • As such, they provide info that could help save the world

    In 1987, an ER-2 travelled to Chile to fly over the Antarctic. Its recordings – along with remote-sensing ground measurements from ground-based and satellite sensors – fed back data that suggested human-made chlorofluorocarbons (or CFCs) had caused the ozone to deplete over the region.

  • It’s flown over category 4 and 5 storms

    In July 2005, the ER-2 carried equipment that measured the build-up and behaviour of tropical storms over Mexico and Central America, flying over several hurricanes – including Emily and Dennis – to collect information on their “entire vertical structure”. This information includes temps, humidity, precipitation, wind related to tropical cyclones. In turn, this helps better understanding of the development of more powerful storms at sea.

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  • It travels above 99 per cent of Earth’s atmosphere

    The ER-2’s operating altitude is between 20,000ft and 70,000ft, reaching an initial cruise altitude of 65,000ft in about 20 minutes. It flies at 410 knots, and over a regular eight-hour mission, travels 3,000 nautical miles and provides seven hours-worth of data collection.

  • The ER-2 set a world record

    On 19 November 1998, an ER-2 set an altitude record for a class of aircraft weighing between 26,455lbs and 25,275lb, when it scaled to 68,700ft.

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